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Thread: Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 6 Part 2

  1. #1

    Opening the Hand of Thought - Chapter 6 Part 2

    Dear Fellow Flowers in Life's Garden ...

    We continue with the remainder of Chapter 6 (The World of Self Unfolds), from p. 92 "Self Settling on Itself" to the end.

    This chapter contains examples of Zen Buddhism radically affirming the uniqueness and incomparability of each individual self (each a special jewel in Indra's Net), all while also radically affirming that there is not individual "self" at all, and new ways to encounter our "True Self" ... all at once, as one.

    I so much care for the flower analogy. In your own life, are you getting better at seeing violets as violets, roses as roses, red thing as red, blue things as blue? It sounds so flowery , but I believe it is a very important lesson on seeing you as just you without the excess competition and comparison with others that so many people are prone to these days. Every flower has its own place in the sun.

    I also believe that a flower analogy can help with the next section of the chapter, on "non-self" and "interdependence." This past week in the forum, some folks said that they still struggle to get their head and heart around such descriptions. yOU way to see your life like a flower in that both are constantly changing and growing, even when we think things appear still and solid. So, one might say that there is no fixed "flower" there, just an ongoing process. It reminds me so of those time lapse films on the nature channel ...



    Another way to approach this is that the single flower can suddenly realize that it is not only a single flower, but is an expression of the entire garden in which it grows. We see ourselves merely as single flowers, but can we also come to see our true self as the garden too? When we do, we see that we are also all the other flowers in the garden ... for they are the garden, and we are the garden, so all is just the garden.

    This also helps us understand the famous Zen teaching of "no birth no death" that folks struggle with. How? Well, one way to look at things is that flowers come and go in the garden, born from seed, growing and then dying ... just like all life. However, if the flower is just the garden, then the garden goes on and on transcending the life and death of individual flowers. Part of our Zen practice is to learn to radically drop the sense of separate self (separate flowerness) and find our ultimate "gardenness" growing and flowering on and one and ...

    Is this a picture of many individual flowers, or is this a picture of one whole, lucious and intergrowing garden? Who are we? YES!



    Whenever I start talking like this, I am reminded of this great book and movie ...



    Gassho, J


    SatToday (then worked on getting the garden ready for spring)
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-22-2016 at 03:17 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  2. #2
    I like this from this reading:

    "Tathagata teaches the dharma of the Middle Way: because this exists, that exists; because this arises, that arises.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  4. #4
    Joyo
    Guest
    Thank you, Jundo. I have been a vegetable gardener for about 5 or 6 years now, and it has really helped me understand the thought process behind no-birth no death. It takes a few years to see what is really going on in that soil. Really, we are no different than the tomatoes that bloom in all their fullness during the summer months, then return to the earth and provide nourishment for the tomatoes next year. It becomes rather difficult to separate the tomatoes from last year, and the ones from this year. They are separate, yet the same, just like all sentient beings on the earth.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  5. #5
    When my wife and I were 2 years married, that was 32 years ago, we planted a large garden in the back of a deserted house. Of course we received permission to grow our vegetables. We grew tomatoes, beans, corn, peppers, squash, potatoes, melons, and we canned much of what we grew. I was a heavy drinker at the time, but somehow we managed to get the work done. We never attempted a vegetable garden again, and just this year we gave away our caner, a full pressure device. As it turned out, my arthritis became severe some 5 years later, and three years later, I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis which precluded most physical labor on my part, and by that time I had become sober. Some 28 years ago, July 22, 1987 is my sobriety date, and December 25, 1986 is my clean date. I recall reading a book Zen, Drugs, and Mysticism at the time. When we bought our home in 1994, my wife continued with a beautiful flower garden, and I do not know the names of all the beautiful flowers she planted. I was forced back into physical labor to help with bills, and eventually was forced into early retirement, and eventually made my way to the UU Fellowship where I revived a life-long interest in Buddhism, eventually Zen, and on June 10, 2016 took my vows at Treeleaf in Jukai, and several weeks ago we gave away the caner to make room in our cupboards. My wife has let the flowers go to grass, and still thinks of reviving her love of growing things. In every way she has supported me in my growth in Buddhism and Zen, and we are like the growing things in our past. I have revived my belief that I shall live for some years to come, and though my wife is physically in better shape than me, we walk together in the parks, and I take pictures of growing things, nature, and specifically flowers. We are like the growing things around us, and though this might be cliched I believe we are entering the autumn of our lives. To everything there is a season, and someday I will pass away and go back to dust and ashes like our growing things yet to become again part of the wider universe. Today I am happy, and perhaps tomorrow, and the day after....here is the URL of my Flicker site so you might enjoy our beautiful pictures of flowers and growing things.

    www.flicker.com/ctaylor109

    Elgwyn
    calm poetry
    Tai Shi
    sat today
    Gassho
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Elgwyn View Post
    When my wife and I were 2 years married, that was 32 years ago, we planted a large garden in the back of a deserted house...
    Thanks Elgwyn for your recent posts - I just wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed them!

    Jeremy
    st

  7. #7
    A good friend once told me, "Everything you need to know about abstract art can be found in the garden." Every shape and color doesn't need an explanation in the garden. It all makes perfect sense. Maybe something along those lines got transmitted to Mahakasyapa when Shakyamuni held up the flower. Maybe.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  8. #8
    Member ForestDweller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Beltrami Island Forest in Minnesota
    Well, once again, I find myself drawing from my life as a Forest dweller in response to Jundo's rhapsody about flowers. Unlike a garden, the Forest grows a violet here and there, a wild rose - one right here, another over there -- and so on. There is no pattern but it is the loveliest tapestry one can imagine, perhaps moreso because one must remain aware and alert to notice some of these shy, out of the way flora. Moreover, each season (up here on the Canadian border, we have some pretty starkly delineated seasons) changes the aspect of the landscape so much that it's hard to believe one is looking at the same space of ground. The warm rush of color in the fall; the stark blacks and whites of winter, the tender greens of spring, and the golden hues of summer. For those of us fortunate enough to live amid this glory of change, it's a constant reminder of our constant alterations to our own visages. And yet . . . there is a perennial rhythm to it, a comforting recurrence. Just as no matter how much a beloved person may change, there is that essence that remains constant. Maybe the reason the Forest is so appealing is that it wears its changings so naturally, not shouting them out, nor hiding them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could wear our impermanence with such grace? Well, there you have my musings on Jundo's flowers. Be well everyone. ^^ForestSatToday^^ CatherineS
    Last edited by ForestDweller; 02-25-2016 at 07:56 PM.

  9. #9
    Always enjoy your forest musings.
    Thanks

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  10. #10
    Thank you Catherine. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  11. #11
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    I haven't been able to participate in is reading, but I do want to let you all know that your writings are very much appreciated. ��

    Elgwyn I learn something about myself every time you post, live well brother.


    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday with innumerable sentient beings.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  12. #12
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi guys,

    I don't have a lot to say about this chapter other than I thought it very good. I read it a second time but I think I should probably read it again. At one point (103) in the edition I have Uchiyama Roshi mention the view of substantially and non-existence. I'm wondering if he meant that these tendencies of thought are found in most thought? Or only when we are in the mist of thinking? (delusion the gateway to thought?) Or is in the attitude we have after the fact. I'm not really sure.

    Either way good stuff!

    Gassho

    Adam

    Sat today

  13. #13
    Something that stuck with me when I first read this book awhile ago was the reference to "the Thinker," in the curled up posture with even the toes clenched, a pretty miserable figure. It made me aware how I curl up like that when my ego is chattering away in overdrive... just the act of straightening my posture can bring me back out of my head and into the present moment.

    This chapter and all this discussion about "self" has been very helpful... I am also starting to understand and enjoy the flower analogy. No separation.... no birth and death... just this.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  14. #14
    I am a bit behind on the reading, but I have been taking in all of the posts; thank you all for your (as usual) really good posts.

    One of the things that sticks with me a lot is this interrelationship of everything. We obviously have a self, but that self is interrelated with everything, not separated from anything. We are connected with everything. Our older doggie is at the vet's today; he's getting an X-ray; it seems to be digestion related, so we are waiting to find out the results.

    It gets me to thinking, death is hard; it's not like you can just give up and say I'm not going to love anymore; all you can do is do the best you can to love those you are with, to treat everyone with respect and love and help where you can. Take care of things and people, most importantly, with all you can at the given moment.

    There are limitations; we are finite beings, but we can do our best at the time.

    Interrelationship is very, very important as Uchiyama Roshi points out. We are not an independent existing self, but we are a self nonetheless. This interdependence, whenever I read it, seems so obvious, just like the precepts, but when you are in the heat of the moment, or in the heat of your life, how soon I can forget.

    With the upcoming election in the US, interrelationship comes to the fore. Racism, sexism, homophobia, the same old things that have been plaguing humanity since humanity was around.

    If you had the funds to build a wall to exclude people from entering this country, what if you turned that attitude just a hair to feeling like those "others" that you are excluding are also your responsibility because they are your family? Would you maybe be able to use those funds to help find out what the source of all of the migration to the US is? Or maybe it's something else. Could you use that money to help people? Could money be a source of help rather than hoarding?

    I don't know, I'm not trying to be political, yet this realization of interrelationship requires our action. And that means we do our best. We smile at someone instead of looking pissed off all the time. We notice when we are so pissed because "that asshole cut in line" that we don't take action and we face ourselves and find out why in God's name that is causing us so much pain. And maybe by investigating that, we can bring a little peace and by bringing that peace we can help others have a little bit of a better day too.

    There is so much to say about interdependence, much better articulated by Uchiyama Roshi and Jundo I might add, but it's an important realization. It's easy to get distracted. It's easy to want to separate myself away from other people's problems, but those are my problems. I think this realization is so key to the survival of our species. I look forward to the day when people are not hated or killed or feared for the color of their skin or the people they choose to have sex with (assuming that it's consensual of course). I really look forward to that day.

    I look forward to the day when the US is a beacon of hope (and not just the US), where you are welcome to bring your tired, hungry and poor and they will find a better life here. I know that money isn't everything, but money is something - people need to eat too. People deserve a basic level to survive. People deserve a place where they can thrive. People are not commodities, they deserve to be treated better. People deserve a good education, healthcare. And so many people are fond of quoting the constitution to defend gun rights. What about people rights? What about the right to equal opportunity where it doesn't matter if you go to a public school in the inner city or a wealthy neighborhood - your kids are safe, they will get healthy meals (not freaking pizza and tater tots) and they get a good education.

    But the only way that day has a chance of occurring is if I take responsibility for my thoughts, and actions. The war starts and stops inside. Peace is only possible - the realization and (more importantly) expression of interrelationship in the world is possible if I do it - and if you do it.

    And back to racism because it fires me up. Racism is not just white on black, it's black on white, brown on brown - racism occurs in every culture. But so what? If you know better, do better! If someone is racist against you, do better; that doesn't mean to be racist back.

    And to attribute violence and crime to a race of people is highly, highly questionable. It's poverty, not race. And it's time that we help the impoverished. I know I'm preaching to the choir but it goes back to taking care of ourselves. Invest in ourselves. Education, healthcare, etc. I don't know if it's possible to eliminate poverty, and we certainly do not want to go to the extreme communist china trying to eliminate all differences, but I think we need changes. I think those changes start with ourselves.

    Ok that ends my campaign speech. hahahahah

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  15. #15
    Risho, you've got my vote! I'll vote twice!

    I think those changes start with ourselves.
    Absolutely. When interdependence becomes real to you, it will affect everything you do: the way you treat people, the way you do business, the way you raise your kids, the way you vote, the way you behave as a citizen, your buying habits, everything. And the effects really will reverberate outward, they will make a difference in the world.

    Hm. Imagine a government operating on the principle of interdependence. Imagine how foreign and domestic policy would change. Ah, just a dream.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat today

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Byokan View Post

    Imagine a government operating on the principle of interdependence. Imagine how foreign and domestic policy would change. Ah, just a dream.
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...?14233-Imagine

    Gassho, Jishin, ST

  17. #17
    ...after 2 weeks in office

    Sorry about what I said during the election guys; hope you understand. Big <insert lobby group> is paying the bills. hahahah

    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  18. #18
    Joyo
    Guest
    This chapter has so many clear explanations on how to approach life from a Zen Buddhist perspective. His writings on the egocentric mind really help to put the mind away for awhile and just let life be. However, near the end of the chapter, his explanation of how to sit zazen I found confusing. I found it more works based than how Jundo teachers us here. Or maybe I am just not understanding Kosho Uchiyama. He says that when our mind drifts off to thought, we are no longer sitting zazen so we have to bring our zazen back to the posture. From my understanding (and maybe I am wrong), Jundo has said here that all is zazen, when we get lost in thoughts we gently bring ourselves back to the clear blue sky, but it is all zazen.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  19. #19
    Joyo
    Guest
    I've been sitting zazen regularly for 3 years now, and still trying to figure it out. =) With that being said, I find the less I try to pigeon hole zazen into a structured, step-by-step way of doing it, the easier it is for me to just sit. I just find the sitting style that Kosho Uchiyama described is a bit like trying to provide an instruction manual. Am I missing something, Jundo, or misinterpreting what he is saying?

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  20. #20
    That's a really good question - I know you asked Jundo, but I have to give it a shot. Because I didn't realized until you asked it that I have that question too.

    From one perspective, everything we do is zazen. However, that doesn't mean you don't have to sit zazen. You take the attitude and perspective of Shikantaza and apply it to your life. You see when you are stuck in your head or attached to an outcome, angry or whatever harmful thought/action whatever, you let it go, you don't feed it or push it away. You just be with it instead of trying to get away - by observing it you start noticing these behaviors. You don't try to fix anything. I think it happens naturally; the practice unfolds naturally, but you have to let it. That's why zazen is goalless; this won't happen if you try to get something out of it; that is just the same cycle of grasping that causes this nonsense. I think that is the gist anyway, I get caught by all this crap all the time. And I fail all the time, but that is zazen too.

    In the next chapter - this topic comes up; vow and repentance. Vow is a direction of our life, zazen, the bodhisattva vows; we set this direction because we know it's healthy; this is raising the bodhi mind; this is the flame that brought you here to practice. But we can never practice properly, we always fail over and over, so we have to repent. But repentance isn't an apology, it's adjusting our course to actually act and do better next time. We fully intend and aim at that knowing that we can't hit the mark; that is why practice is endless.

    Also, there is nothing to figure out; you can't sit zazen properly. In fact, if you try to sit zazen that's all wrong. You have to drop the thoughts of subject object. You have to just sit, zazen sits you (not my saying, I'm stealing this). It's like when Dogen talks about (and I'm paraphrasing) "you can reach out to meet everything, but the way is letting everything meet you". We want to push our self, our definition of things, we want a cozy definition so we can protect ourself and get something, but with zazen we let things happen and be (not in a passive way) to see what's really happening.

    Zazen is about giving everything, it's about letting go of all of that.

    Our practice needs to include the cushion, but it's also everything we do, if we allow it to seep into our lives, and if you are sitting, you can't help that from happening. Perspectives shift. You may lose your temper but you catch it now. You feel that uneasiness or boredom, and you're like wow, I never realized I seek distraction due to that or you feel how much you try to avoid the thought of death, or whatever it is.

    This is real work. I think we read and write a lot here -which is a good thing- but the zazenkais, the ango, the study, the practice, the charity those are all works. This is the message I get here, but I think it's just expressed differently. Sitting on our asses and feeling good has nothing to do with zazen (I know you aren't saying that). I think what it's about is sitting zazen consistently. Sort of like planting a seed and watering it, feeding it and giving it sunshine everyday. That's all we do. We bring ourself to the cushion. But there is an inherent awake quality to our lives, our Buddha nature, that will start to blossom. We may not even notice it until it's too late.. and then one day (like Shunryu Suzuki says) we are soaking wet. It's like we have been walking in a fog, slowly getting wet, not noticing that the water in the air is penetrating us, and by the time we notice we are sopping wet.

    This sitting that sits us, this is doing the awakening. It's changing us; we are just coming to the cushion diligently, noticing when we get distracted and coming back, notice when we get sleepy and coming back, adjusting the posture when we slouch, just being here. That's it. It's the whatever we are made of that is beginning to blossom by this practice and study, etc. Then one day we may have a stem popping out of the soil, maybe after 40 years we have a bud, I don't know... but it changes us.

    This is real work, and we take this realization and we don't preach and proselytize, we learn how to help - which means when to extend a hand and when not to offer unsolicted help or advice. This is very vague because every situation is different, but we approach the world in a new way; instead of being separate, we are part of everything. And although you are you and I am I, we are the same. We know from studying ourselves (or sitting and noticing) our fears, anxieties, pride, anger ,and we know that you and both have these things.

    We know how to treat each other gentler so that if you are pissed off I may be more empathetic and realize that I get pissed off too, and that maybe what you are saying to me is just a habit and nothing personal. And besides, we are much more than any single word definition anyway. But it allows us to act in less harmful ways.

    Anyway I'm learning too; continuing to fall, continuing to rise. As long as we are alive, we have another chance to get it right -knowing that we will fail, but never, never giving up.


    Gassho,

    Risho
    -sattoday

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    This chapter has so many clear explanations on how to approach life from a Zen Buddhist perspective. His writings on the egocentric mind really help to put the mind away for awhile and just let life be. However, near the end of the chapter, his explanation of how to sit zazen I found confusing. I found it more works based than how Jundo teachers us here. Or maybe I am just not understanding Kosho Uchiyama. He says that when our mind drifts off to thought, we are no longer sitting zazen so we have to bring our zazen back to the posture. From my understanding (and maybe I am wrong), Jundo has said here that all is zazen, when we get lost in thoughts we gently bring ourselves back to the clear blue sky, but it is all zazen.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today
    Same difference, I believe. Although there is "no right or wrong" Zazen ever, Zazen is not to sit lost in thought ... and even though it happens to all of us again and again. (There is no "wrong" Zazen, yet to sit wallowing in thoughts is wrong! ) So, again and again, let the thoughts go and don't grab on. Repeat and repeat.

    Uchiyama says "return to the posture", I say "the clear blue sky", others say the breath ... no real difference. I have written about that here, in an earlier Chapter ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...l=1#post171328

    Risho said some nice comments ...

    From one perspective, everything we do is zazen. However, that doesn't mean you don't have to sit zazen. You take the attitude and perspective of Shikantaza and apply it to your life. You see when you are stuck in your head or attached to an outcome, angry or whatever harmful thought/action whatever, you let it go, you don't feed it or push it away. You just be with it instead of trying to get away - by observing it you start noticing these behaviors. You don't try to fix anything. I think it happens naturally; the practice unfolds naturally, but you have to let it. That's why zazen is goalless; this won't happen if you try to get something out of it; that is just the same cycle of grasping that causes this nonsense. I think that is the gist anyway, I get caught by all this crap all the time. And I fail all the time, but that is zazen too.
    As opposed to trying to do something, or trying not to do something ... Zazen has an aspect of doing without doing at once, both needing to "get something done" all while knowing that "there is nothing ultimately in need of doing" at once. We have goals and are goalless at once. We have thoughts and our free of the thoughts at once. We fix what is broken, but also know that nothing ever can be broken ... all at once. So we chant our Four Vows, "To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless ... To attain the Enlightened Way, a Way non-attainable" This is the vital heart of Shikantaza.

    Risho is correct ...

    But we can never practice properly, we always fail over and over, so we have to repent. ... Also, there is nothing to figure out; you can't sit zazen properly.

    There is no place to fall, no mistake possible from the start ... yet it is possible to fall, and life is endless mistakes (all true at once). So, we try our best to take care and not fall or make mistakes. Mistakes are bad, and there are good and bad things ... beyond and dropping away "good vs, bad" as well.

    There is no perfect Zazen and it can never be sat properly. At the same time, all Zazen is perfect, and we do our best to sit properly.

    Don't see things only one way and see what happens.

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-04-2016 at 01:38 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  22. #22
    I am joyous at all your comments. Today I started a chair yoga class, and all of us have physical limitations, sever arthritis here, a mending leg there, deformities of the spine here, and all of us older people, even our teacher. We included 20 minutes of meditation and guided imagery, and 40 minutes of yoga. The teacher pushed gently, natural, and kept up the pace. I have been practicing chair yoga now for 10 days and at home I use free videos to follow routines, poses, meditations, and I keep up with Shikantaza, and I am a flower. My beloved Marjorie touched my shoulder a little while ago and said, "That's to reassure you. I am seeing things in you that I have never seen before." This is our flower, our love, our age all speaking at the same time, and yes Jundo and all of you are right. You are my friends.

    Elgwyn
    Tai Shi
    calm poetry
    sat today
    Gassho
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

  23. #23
    Elgwyn I really enjoy your posts; thank you for sharing.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -sattoday

  24. #24
    Your post made me smile as well, Elgwyn... yes we are friends and flowers of this Earth (and leaves of the Tree!) The chair yoga sounds like fun and also sounds like it would be a good adjunct to Zazen, like practice for the body.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  25. #25
    Yes Elgwyn, you are a flower. Thanks for fragrance and love.

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  26. #26
    Hi.

    Elgwyn, Thank you.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

    #Sat2day

  27. #27
    Wonderful Elgwyn, thank you. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  28. #28
    Hello,

    Well said.

    Thank you.


    Gassho
    Myosha sat today.
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  29. #29
    Elgwyn,



    Thank you for sharing. I love your posts, I love your poetry (yes I have your book and it is wonderful!), and I love Marjorie too.

    Gassho
    Byōkan
    sat today

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